In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. – Luke 2:1-3
Here in this these familiar verses we see the birth of a King wrapped up and intermixed with the command of a lower king. Every president and world leader longs to leave a lasting legacy. Today marks the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Much fanfare has been made of his great accomplishments bringing reconciliation and an end to apartheid in South Africa. I’m sure history students will be studying his life for many years to come. But I’m sure Caesar had no idea that his simple decree that all the known Roman world should be registered, a type of census that would happen more than once, would still be talked about for millennia to come. I’m pretty sure he would have been upset to know that God would use this decree not to speak of the greatness of a Roman emperor but to point to an even greater King whose power, glory and rule will overshadow every ruler in every kingdom in every time period, and whose reign will be acknowledged by all men both great small, whose kingdom will last forever and ever.
I’m also sure that through this decree Ceaser wished to show his authority as a king, but in all reality he was simply a tool God used to bring about the fulfillment of prophecy, that according to Micah 5, the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. God in His sovereign power is moving heaven and earth to accomplish his will and will use even a pagan king to get the job done.
While Caesar sits on his throne, God sits on a much larger throne. We began this story with a decree from Caeser Agustus. Often times our secular leaders care nothing of their ultimate leader. Their agenda is their own glory and self-exaltation. As we read in Matthew 2, there are times when our political leaders are outright hostile to God’s redemptive plan. But we have no reason to fear. God is still sovereign and even wicked rulers are pawns in God’s will.
Proverbs 21:1 tells us “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”